December 30, 1901: Carnegie Approves $20,000 Grant to Build a New Library in Huntington
On December 30, 1901, the Carnegie Corporation approved a $20,000 grant to build a new library in Huntington. It was one of more than 2,500 libraries that industrialist Andrew Carnegie funded around the world over nearly a half-century. In West Virginia, Carnegie-funded libraries were also built in Hinton, in Parkersburg, and at Bethany College. In addition, Carnegie provided funding for a performing arts center in Lewisburg.
Several West Virginia communities, such as Bluefield and Williamson, rejected Carnegie’s money because they couldn’t afford the required 10 percent annual maintenance fee. Leaders in Charleston turned down $45,000 because they wanted to build a larger library.
The most contentious situation arose in Wheeling, which was a major steel-producing city. Labor leaders helped defeat a library levy, stating that Wheeling was the “one place on this great green planet where Andrew Carnegie can’t get a monument with his money.” Their opposition stemmed from steelworkers’ deaths during the 1892 strike at Carnegie’s mill in Homestead, Pennsylvania.
All the Carnegie buildings in West Virginia still exist; although, none of the libraries are used as such. Carnegie Hall in Lewisburg remains a performing arts center.